A Spot in the Grand Final is all on the line!

Nathan Cleary Penrith Panthers
Photo Credit; Getty Images/Cover Art

In what was an exciting Week 1 of NRL Finals Football, we saw the besieged Sharks and Newcastle, eliminated from contention. As they were convincingly beaten by 12 and 26 points respectively, at the hands of the merciless Raiders and Rabbitohs.

Then last week, somehow topped a week we thought couldn’t be topped.

The Raiders were victorious in an exciting, tough contest of Footy, against the Roosters. The score-line ended 22-18, at the SCG.

Then the Rabbitohs overcame an underdog Eels side. As they won a scintillating contest of Rugby League, 38-24, at Bankwest Stadium.

Meaning that for the back-to-back Premiers and a resilient Parramatta side, they were both knocked out of the competition.

Melbourne, Canberra, Penrith, and South Sydney are the only teams left in contention for the NRL’s most elusive honour, a Premiership. Will it be the experienced Storm side? Or, a resilient Canberra side? Will the Panthers continue their winning streak? or will the free-flow attack of South Sydney win out in their clash? All of these questions will be answered on the weekend but let’s see if we can try and figure it out right here and right now.

Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders @ Suncorp Stadium – Fri, 16 OCT @ 7:50 PM

Last RD – Melbourne won their latest game in Brisbane, at Suncorp Stadium, as they thoroughly beat the Eels, 36 points to 24, in what was their opening match of this NRL Finals Series campaign.

They were down 12-0, by the conclusion of the 23rd minute. But from the 30th min to the 42nd, they fought back to score 3 tries, during what was a crucial period of the game for them, to open up a 6-point lead. And just as accordingly, they would never be losing again throughout the entire match.

Papenhuyzen bagged a double for the Storm. And they eventually scored 6 tries to 4, as they also crucially kicked 6/6 conversions. And throughout the entire match, they impressively leaked just 5 penalties.

The Raiders will struggle to beat them if they keep this sort of stuff up.

At the SCG, not many gave the Raiders a chance against the back-to-back Premiers, but they didn’t give a stuff! They left it all out on the field, as they knocked out the Roosters, with a back-to-the-wall, 22-18 victory.

They opened the scoring in just the 5th min, via Josh Papalii. And they also didn’t allow Sydney to register a try/or a single point until they scored just 4 minutes before the conclusion of the 1st half. Leading 16-0 at one point, such was their dominance throughout the match.

A key statistic for Canberra from this one was that they completed 90% of their sets. Good for 38/42. And they also gave away just 4 penalties.

Canberra will bring the fight to Melbourne. That much is guaranteed!

Key Stats/Facts

Canberra has won 3 of their past 4 competitive encounters against Melbourne. They have been by 16, 2 and 4 points, respectively. Whilst they also scored the first try in 2 of those 3 games. Those were via Rapana in the 4th minute and Simonsson in the 3rd respectively.

Key Player

Jarrod Croker. The man who is commonly regarded among NRL fans as one of the most underrated players in the game.

Against the Chooks, he made 3 tackle breaks and he also had one line-break assist. He made 69 running m’s and kicked 3 goals from 4 attempts.

He has proven over and over that he knows how to turn it up in the big games. And his experience will be a massive benefiting factor to a young Raiders side coming up against a Storm side who have a unique ability to advance through to this part of the finals every other year.

His decision-making abilities late in the game could potentially be huge for Canberra. As could his on-target goal-kicking abilities. He is a crucial piece to Canberra’s puzzle for this clash.

What Should Eventuate

A Canberra victory.

The Raiders are in some serious form at the moment, they haven’t lost since RD17.

They beat the Dragons by 29 points away from home, then they toppled the resilient Warriors by 12 points. Post that, they beat Cronulla in back to back games, first by 10 points, then by 12. And most recently, in SYD, against SYD, they eliminated the back-to-back Premiers, on their home turf no less!

The Storm won’t scare them at all. And in the QF’s of last season, at AAMI Park, Canberra won 12-10 via a 77th-minute match-winning try from Bateman (given that Croker made the ensuing conversion).

They’ll play tough and they’ll play hard and they won’t give up, even when their backs are against the wall. They’ll take this one out, even if it’ll be one hell of an encounter!

Canberra by 1 point.

Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs @ANZ Stadium – SAT, 17 OCT, 7:50 PM

Last RD – The Panthers last game was in Week 1 of the Finals. And boy, did they show up!

Playing at home, at Panthers Stadium, they shocked the world and in particular the Roosters, as they won 29-28, in what was a simply awesome game of Rugby League.

They were down 10-0 at one stage, but that didn’t faze them, as they proceeded to score the next 5 tries, such was their utter dominance.

When it came down to it, Nathan Cleary once again proved why he is currently one of the best players in the game. He calmly slotted the match-winning 77th minute FG, much to the delight of the small, but, raucous home crowd.

One alarming stat from the Panthers was their 42 missed tackle attempts. SYD was at just 25. However, despite this, with their current form in tow, even the electric Rabbitohs will have a hard time beating Penrith.

Souths did what Souths do best last round, they scored 38 points, in their 14-point victory over the Eels. In a match that was played out at Bankwest Stadium.

They were down 18-8 at one point, but with a bit of luck and a lot of speed, they managed to completely turn the game on its head. Just like they did against Newcastle, just a week prior.

Jaxson Paulo bagged a double, whilst Cook scored a simply great individual near-last minute try to put the cherry on top for the Rabbitohs. They crucially kicked 6/6 conversions, while they also gave away only 3 penalties throughout the game.

They did, however, make 16 errors, something that will definitely have to be atoned for against Penrith. Despite this, with their attacking prowess, they’re bound to give Penrith one hell of a scare!

Key Stats/Facts

The past 10 encounters played between these two sides have been split at 5 victories apiece.

Penrith’s victories have come by 8, 1, 4, 2 and 14 points. Whilst the Rabbitohs victories have come by 4, 28, 1, 4 and 16 points.

The latest clash between these two sides, which was a 20-12 Panthers victory, in Kogarah, saw them score 4 tries and the Rabbitohs 2.

Key Player

Jaydn Su’A. Against the Eels, he completed 26 of his 27 tackle attempts. Good for a 96% success rate! Whilst he also made 1 tackle break and made 67 running m’s. The 22-year-old has just been so, so crucial to South’s forward-pack this campaign.

On the season he has completed 556 out of 593 tackle attempts. Solid for a 94% success rate! For good measure he’s also added in 2 tries there, + 1 try assist.

Again, he will be heavily relied upon against Penrith to make some good hit-up metres through the middle and severely damage their attack with his bone-bruising tackles.

Wayne Bennett will again place a lot of his faith in Su’A in this encounter and you can damn well expect him to repay it massively!

What Should Eventuate

A Rabbitohs win.

Ultimately what this game will come down to is the Panthers form, but also their lack of experience. And the Rabbitohs attack, but also their leaky defence.

Souths win out here, ever so slightly.

Their defence has definitely not been pretty at times throughout the season. And Penrith will put it under all sorts of pressure on Saturday night.

But Souths attack, one which has seen them score 144 points over their last 3 games, good for 24 tries! Should see them win out eventually.

And it certainly doesn’t help the Panthers case, that despite them being the higher-ranked team, this crucial match is being played in Homebush and not in Penrith. The Souths fans that are there will tear the house down!

Rabbitohs by 6 points.

There are only two spots left in the Grand Final. And all of Melbourne, Canberra, Penrith, and South Sydney have done incredibly well to reach this stage. Especially considering that it has been one of the most difficult years in memory.

Whoever wins, you’re the fair victors. And to whoever loses, you should hold your heads high at the stage that you’ve reached.

One thing for sure though, these games are bound to be as awesome and as exciting and as thrilling as ever!

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